On Sept. 27, 2021, the following article appeared in USA Today: Fact check: Pregnancy test not reliable screen for testicular cancer (usatoday.com)
A viral Facebook video is urging men to get tested for a rare type of cancer using a simple, over-the-counter tool: a home pregnancy test.
“Pregnancy tests aren’t just for women. A (positive result) for men shows high hormone levels linked to testicular cancer. Catching it early could be what saves your life,” reads cue cards presented in the three-minute video shared to Facebook on Sept. 15.
The three men in the video then show the results of their own pregnancy tests sitting in cups in front of them. Two of the men test negative, but the third gets a positive result and flips the white stick’s display to show the camera.
Captions then appear and encourage viewers, “Tell all the men in your life!”
Robert A. Somer, MD, Head, Division of Hematology/Medical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper says, “Not so fast.”
In this video, the man who received a positive pregnant test expressed high levels of hCG – the hormone that women produce during pregnancy.
There is no evidence to show that screening with hCG helps diagnose young men for testicular cancer – which is the most common cancer in males ages 15-35 years old. Testicular cancer only accounts for 1% of all male cancers, so it is relatively rare.
Further, there can be many false positives, and false negatives in using an at-home pregnancy test. Some forms of testicular cancer cause elevated hCG levels, but others do not. Even if one HAS testicular cancer that has spread outside the testicle, only about half of the men will have a positive hCG. This means if we were to use a pregnancy test for testicular cancer screening, half the men that have advanced testicular cancer would get missed – and provide false reassurance.
That being said, if you experience any of the following symptoms, especially if they last for more than two weeks, contact your health care provider.
- A lump or enlargement in either testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
- Back pain
Robert A. Somer, MD
Head, Division of Hematology/Medical Oncology
Director, Cancer Clinical Trials Program
MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper